Shagrat’s Friend explains his perspective on the distinction between atheism and agnosticism:
[A]theism and agnosticism answer two different questions. Regarding the religions that inhabit the earth (or have done so), X -1 must be false, since they’re mutually exclusive (to the extent that there’s any substance to their claims). If at least X -1 must be false, it’s really not too hard to imagine that X -1 +1 are false. (I’m not going to get into any sort of veridical arguments about the “truthiness” of any given belief system. You want to believe that the New Testament tells a cohesive story that’s internally logical, go right ahead. Just don’t bother me with all the sophistical razzmatazz necessary to explain what exactly happened when Jesus was born or what happened to Judas after he counted his money.)
As for the broader picture, yes, it is impossible to disprove the existence of some hypothetical deity. Yeah, maybe that is who started the Big Bang (if it really happened) or makes the earth spin on its axis and revolve happily around the sun day in and day out or who winds up the clockwork that makes all that stuff happen. Sure, maybe there are some Epicurean entities who spend their existence in solitary blessedness beyond the travails of this mortal coil and outside the ken of us mere humans. So to that extent, I am an agnostic.
But if that’s all “God” boils down to, who cares? I see no rational evidence for the day-to-day involvement of any deity in the regular affairs on earth. You want to believe that the sun stopped shining and an earthquake dumped the dead out of their tombs and they milled around for a while when Jesus died on the cross? Be my guest. Or that God held his nose or averted his eyes at Treblinka or Kolyma? Talk it over with Augustine and Orosius. But leave me out of that argument with all its a priori-isms that are invalid in my eyes.
A few corrections:
(1) It is not true to say that X-1 must be false or that most religions are mutually exclusive. For example, Judaism and Christianity part company on a single claim: that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. Most religions make no grand universal claims and both Christianity and Islam, the two great universal religions, comfortably encompass many, if not most, other religions by virtue of their distinction between a sovereign Creator God and the panoply of lesser gods subject to His Will.
(2) There is a considerable quantity of rational evidence for the day-to-day involvement of a deity in regular Earthly affairs. Indeed, this is the core basis for my own Christian faith. The Bible posits that the world is ruled by an arrogant, evil, intelligent, and malicious deity and we have no shortage of documentary, testimonial, and experiential evidence of his existence.
(3) There is no reason to assume that the supernatural is any less complicated, or any less full of detailed variety, than the natural. To repeatedly attempt to boil down a concept as a god, let alone The God, to a simple binary question is so intellectually vacuous as to appear either uninterested or intellectually stunted.
That being said, I can only agree that there is little point in engaging in “all the sophistical razzmatazz necessary to explain what exactly happened when
Jesus was born or what happened to Judas after he counted his money”. One might as profitably attempt to determine Martha Washington’s juggling ability or describe the loss of Alexander the Great’s virginity.